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UK: 29 hectares of new tomato greenhouses to use waste heat

A £120m project to construct two of the UK’s largest greenhouses at two farmland sites near Norwich and Bury St Edmunds has been announced. The advanced greenhouses will be warmed by residual heat from nearby water recycling centres owned by Anglian Water.  The construction phase of the project will begin immediately, with completion expected in autumn 2020. Commercial-scale growers from the UK and the Netherlands have already committed to leasing the space.  

Closed loop heat pumps
Closed loop heat pumps will be used to transfer the heat from the water recycling centres to the greenhouses, and will have the additional benefit of cooling the facility’s treated water outflow before it is returned to the environment.

Electricity for the greenhouse’s heat pumps will be provided by a Combined Heat and Power plant, with waste heat from the CHP providing further warmth for the greenhouses. The gas-fired CHP plant’s carbon emissions will be transferred into the greenhouses, raising the CO2 levels and further accelerating the growth of the plants, and capturing the majority of the carbon. 

"The greenhouses will provide growing conditions for a range of plants and vegetables requiring a high-heat, and relatively low-light environments such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Once operational, the greenhouses will be capable of producing more than 1 in 10 of the country’s tomatoes, and will create 360 permanent new jobs", the initiators say. 

Click here to enlarge.

The complete facility will be realised by Bom Group greenhouses are among the largest ever constructed in the UK with each covering more than 13 hectares. Standing around 7m tall the large glass structures allow crops to grow vertically along guidewires, and do not require any soil, instead being grown hydroponically from nutrient rich water solutions. Once in full production, they will be capable of growing more than 20 tonnes of tomatoes every day – 12% of the tomatoes grown in the UK.

Renewable heat
"In Europe, solar radiation alone cannot provide sufficient energy to reach optimal growing temperatures throughout the day, even in the summer. Most commercial greenhouses overcome this problem by using another heat source to increase temperature", they say. 

The majority of greenhouses use gas-fired boilers for this additional energy. Greencoat Capital’s approach largely displaces these fossil fuel emissions by using waste heat from Anglian Water’s nearby water recycling centres. 

Once operating, the two greenhouses will create 360 permanent jobs in the local area, rising to 480 during high season. 

James Samworth, Partner at Greencoat Capital, said: “We’re very pleased to have achieved another innovative first in the UK renewable energy sector. Technology and cross-sector co-operation is continuing to unlock some amazing possibilities in energy and agriculture. We see considerable opportunity to invest in renewable heat in the UK, providing pensions investors with the predictable returns they require to pay beneficiaries, meanwhile reducing our carbon emissions as an economy.”

Duncan Hale, Portfolio Manager at Willis Towers Watson said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Greencoat Capital on this project, particularly as we are making best efforts to invest in the low carbon economy while still delivering the strong risk-adjusted cashflows our investors are after. This marks a step change in the decarbonisation of agri-business and heating, and we are proud to be supporting UK infrastructure with the assets we manage.”

Dr Lu Gilfoyle, Head of Environmental Quality at Anglian Water said: “It has been great to be involved in such an innovative project, helping to solve a number of challenges for Anglian. Removing excess heat from the river systems is a priority for DEFRA and ourselves, and it is fantastic to be able to put that heat energy to good use.”

Andy Allen, Director at Oasthouse Ventures, said: “Delivering a world-first low carbon greenhouse system is hugely exciting for the small team who took this from conception, design and planning, to contracting and now construction. The environmental, social and political benefits of these systems are significant, and we look forward to further disrupting the traditional carbon heavy models of agriculture.”

Pension investment
The capital for the project comes from a number of public and private pension funds in the UK, reflecting the growing trend of pensions managers seeking returns through direct investing into renewable infrastructure. Greencoat Capital now manages almost £2bn of private market pension fund capital through its various renewable infrastructure funds.

For more information:
Greencoat Capital


For more information:
Martin van Zeijl
Bom Group
Kulkweg 60
3151 XE Hoek van Holland
Tel: +31(0)174 725 160 

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